By Brian Ives
Little Big Town has been a major force in country music for quite some time, but “Girl Crush,” from their 2014 album Pain Killer, gave them a whole new level of mainstream exposure. And the smash hit seems to have a worthy follow-up with their latest single, “Better Man.” All four members of the group are songwriters, but “Better Man” came to them from a songwriter of note: Taylor Swift.
Phillip Sweet tells Radio.com. “We’ve known Taylor for a long time, and she actually sent [the song in] an email to me, and I passed it to the rest of the band. And she was just like, ‘I’ve thought about you guys singing this melody… let me know what you think.’ And we were in the middle of making a record, so this summer while we were out on tour, we just kept listening to it and living with it, and fell in love with it. And it felt like it was a perfect piece of the puzzle to this record.”
While Swift wasn’t involved in the recording of the song, the band played it for her after they cut it. Kimberly Schlapman says, “We really were anxious for her to hear it. Plus, she handed us this jewel, and we really wanted to know what she thought about it. And she loved it. She genuinely got so excited, it was so much fun to watch her. We were all like, ‘Oh, she likes it!’ And she really, really did.”
Fans, of course, are free to speculate who Swift wrote the song about; unsurprisingly, the Little Big Town folks don’t comment on that. But more importantly than who it is about is the fact that it’s a song that is easy to relate to. “It might have been a lover, but it might have been a parent that disappointed you or a family member or some relationship along the way. And so, we can all connect to that,” Karen Fairchild says.
The song is the first taste of the band’s upcoming album, The Breaker. Sweet says: “I think ‘Better Man’ is a good jumping off point for the sounds and the feels of this record, and the places we’re going. There’s emotions all across the board. There’s a lot of meanings behind The Breaker, and there’s a song actually on the record called ‘The Breaker.’ The narrator of that song is the heartbreaker, is the one who broke the heart. But it also has many layers of meaning like breaking of a new day or breaking through something or being broken.”
Fairchild adds, “It’s hard to really talk about the record because it’s not fully finished. We had a little bit of touchup work to do and sequencing. And [producer] Jay Joyce is so great at always helping us figure out the flow of the record. Really, he’s brilliant at that. So that little magic that happens at the end is gonna happen in December, good Lord willing.”